MANDATA - Consistency is key this year at Line Mountain School District.

At this time last year, the first days of school were delayed by two because renovations and additions at both the elementary and the junior/senior high school were not yet complete.

"I'm looking forward to the kids coming back to buildings that are done," said Superintendent David M. Campbell.

Combining three elementary schools into one and moving fifth- and sixth-grade students to the junior/senior high school set off a chain of major changes, including transitioning from three principals to two.

One of the bigger changes this school year, which begins today, will be reversing the change to two principals back to three principals.

Jeffrey Lagerman took the role of middle school principal over the summer, enabling Jeanne Menko to focus on Line Mountain Elementary School students and Jeffrey Roadcap to manage students in ninth through twelfth grades.

"We're going to a true middle school concept," Lagerman said Thursday.

Bradley Skelton was hired to fill Lagerman's old position as dean of students and athletic director.

Skelton said he had a smooth transition into the district so far.

"I look forward to the students coming in," he said, adding with a smile, "And all their discipline needs."

Other changes at the district are smaller, but still notable.

The district's grant funding through Ready to Learn, which replaced the PA Accountability Block Grant, will almost double this year. The funding helps the district maintain small class sizes for "bubble" grades that have more students than average.

The high school is placing increased emphasis on Advanced Placement (AP) courses this year after school ranking systems began using AP scores as a key factor.

"They've been revitalized," said Roadcap.

Roadcap noted that high school students can also participate in dual enrollment courses through Clarion University.

At the elementary school, a new playground setup is expected to please students.

"We've moved equipment to make a bigger area for kickball," said Menko.

Menko is also introducing more positive reinforcement for good behavior.

A new reward system for good behavior is being implemented; children will receive a charm each month they are well-behaved. A child can then exchange three charms for ice cream.

Corkboards with the Golden Rule are hanging outside of every classroom and will be decorated with students' goals. A border, made from cutouts of parents' hands with their hopes and dreams for their children, will be added early in the year.

Menko is also rewarding students for reaching a new reading goal of 24 books per year.

"They will get a string backpack that says 'I love reading,'" said Menko.

An increased emphasis on reading is echoed throughout the district.

"We set a goal to read 15 percent more in every classroom," said Campbell. "It doesn't have to just be the reading class."

Addressing issues

Campbell also said Thursday that while he looked forward to the conclusion of many of the problems plaguing the school board, the students would be unaffected by these outside issues.

One of the major turmoils from last year, a lawsuit filed by a middle school girl who sought to join the all-male wrestling team, appears to be drawing to a close.

Last winter, Audriana Beattie won a temporary restraining order and a preliminary injunction allowing her to join the wrestling team.

The school board then unanimously decided March 25 to stop fighting the lawsuit and allow Beattie to wrestle on the district's all-male wrestling team. It abolished its gender participation policy in April.

Campbell said he expected the incoming eighth-grader to compete with the wrestling team this winter - and he hoped her fight would inspire more girls to take interest in wrestling.

"I would still like to see girls wrestling as a sport," said Campbell. "I think the opportunities that would offer girls would be good."

Strike

The Line Mountain community headed into Labor Day weekend unsure if a teachers strike would be called ahead of today's scheduled opening day.

There was no word Friday as to whether there would be a strike, which Pennsylvania State Education Association (PSEA) representative Mark McDade has all but promised in recent months because negotiations with the school board for a new contract continue to break down.

Teachers must provide a 48-hour notice of a strike, and that notice must be hand-delivered to the superintendent.

McDade said Friday the decision to give notice of a strike over the weekend was up to Line Mountain Education Association (LMEA), which he didn't believe would happen.

He said a meeting is scheduled Wednesday for LMEA members to provide them with a bargaining update and where the association is in the process.

Ben Pratt, the district's negotiator, was hopeful late Friday morning that school would start on time.

No strike notice was listed on the district's website as of Monday afternoon.

New staff

New staff members in the district include first-grade teacher Brigette Styer; second-grade teacher Maria Getchey; third-grade teacher Elizabeth Pomykalski; fifth-grade teachers Trisha Herb, Jenna Kerstetter and Lindsay Scherer; sixth-grade teachers Christine Shearn and Kam Traugh; Spanish teacher Gina Radosta, and kindergarten through sixth-grade health and physical education teacher Stephen Kelley.